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Cassini spacecraft samples interstellar dust near Saturn

15 April 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, studying the giant planet, its rings and its moons. Among the myriad microscopic grains collected by Cassini, a special three dozen stand out from the crowd. Scientists conclude these specks of material came from interstellar space — the space between the stars.

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Rosetta studies Comet 67P at perihelion

14 August 2015 Astronomy Now

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has witnessed 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko make its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) at 3:03am BST on 13 August, when the comet came within 116 million miles of our nearest star. Rosetta’s measurements suggest the comet is currently spewing up to 300kg of water vapour and a metric tonne of dust every second, creating dangerous working conditions for the spacecraft.

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The mysterious ‘lakes’ on Saturn’s moon Titan

21 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Titan is home to seas and lakes filled with liquid hydrocarbons, but what forms the depressions on the surface? A new study using data from the joint NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) Cassini mission suggests the moon’s surface dissolves in a process that’s similar to the creation of sinkholes on Earth.